Saturday, November 26, 2011

Roasted Vegetables on Spaghetti with Pesto

Roasting has quickly become one of my favorite ways to prepare veggies. Before roasting, I marinate them with a mix of spices, herbs and oil. It helps bring out the flavors and also helps with the caramelization process.
This particular recipe has roasted bell peppers, onions and cherry tomatoes served on top of a bed of pasta with Pesto, but you can use any vegetables you like. I like to roast my vegetables under the broiler.
Serve the roasted vegetables on top of pasta with Pesto, and the mouth-watering combination of the bitter basil and caramelized veggies will have you scraping the last bits from the bottom of your bowl.

2 large bell peppers, cut in strips (any color will do, I like to use orange or red just for the color)
1 large white onion, cut in strips
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in half (any tomatoes work too)
1/2 cup Basil and Spinach Pesto
1 pound spaghetti (any pasta will do)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp basil
1/2 tsp garlic
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp thyme

Chop all your vegetables and put in a large bowl. Sprinkle with oregano, basil, smoked paprika, thyme, garlic, salt, pepper and the olive oil. (You can also use a prepackaged Italian herb mix instead.) Mix well, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for about 1 hour.
Boil and drain your pasta according to the package instructions, then mix in the pesto.
Spread the vegetables on a foil-covered baking pan, then place under a medium-high broiler setting (4 to 5 inches from the top) for 20 minutes, or until the vegetable skin starts to wrinkle and you see small burnt spots.

Put a bed of pasta with pesto in a bowl and cover it with a large scoop of the roasted vegetables. You can also sprinkle some grated Parmesan cheese on top.

Photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Homemade Pizza Sauce

When it comes to pizza, it’s all about the dough and the sauce. It’s almost impossible to choose the wrong toppings, when you’ve taken care of those two things.
This is a sweet, slow-cooked pizza sauce with fresh basil and oregano I grew in my backyard.
I didn’t add any salt to the sauce, but because most of the meat toppings are salty on their own, you won't miss it.

Ingredients: Makes enough sauce for three to four 12” pizzas
1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
1 6 oz can tomato paste
1 tbs unsalted butter
1/2 large white onion, chopped
4 tbs fresh basil, chopped
2 tbs fresh oregano, chopped
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
2 large garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp marjoram
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp pepper
2 bay leaves

Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
Add onion and saute for a couple of minutes.
Add garlic and saute for another minute.
Add chopped basil and oregano and stir for about a minute.
Add the tomato paste and incorporate fully into the sauce.
Add the brown sugar, olive oil and the rest of the spices.
Simmer for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the crushed tomatoes and the bay leaves.
Simmer for about 40 minutes with the cover slightly ajar.

Photograph by Michael Findley 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Basil and Spinach Pesto

This year I’m growing basil in my backyard. I have yet to figure out how to freeze fresh basil without it turning black from freezer burn, so instead I’m making several batches of pesto which will freeze better.
I started harvesting my basil three months ago. Within two weeks of picking the leaves, the basil plants were even bigger and leafier.
Basil pesto is super easy to make and can be used in so many different ways. Mix it with any kind of pasta or spread it on sliced toasted french bread as a base for bruschetta. You can also dollop some on top of baked potatoes or make a pesto pizza.
In this recipe I added spinach to increase the volume, without affecting the taste. Use 1 part spinach for every 2 parts basil.

2 cups basil leaves, packed
1 cup spinach leaves, packed (Optional)
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup walnuts
3 tbs chopped garlic
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste

In a hot pan, stirring constantly, toast the pine nuts and walnuts until they turn golden brown.
Add the basil and spinach leaves to a food processor along with the nuts and garlic. Pulse a few times till well combined. Add the cheese and pulse. Slowly add the oil until it’s completely absorbed, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Update (2011-11-12):
A great way to store the pesto for quick and easy re-use is to freeze it in ice-cube trays. When the pesto has frozen completely, empty the pesto cubes into a ziplock bag and return to the freezer. Now you can quickly access the pesto when you need it. I found that mixing the frozen cubes with the pasta just after its been drained and still hot, allows it to melt and coat all the pasta. 1 cube per person seems to work for me, but you may like more pesto with your pasta.

Now I can enjoy pesto all winter, long after the summer growing season has ended.

Photograph by Michael Findley

Friday, September 2, 2011

Arroz Chaufa (Fried Rice)

When you think of fried rice, you usually think of a side dish to some Asian saucy meat, or just something thrown in for the purpose of soaking up the sauce. But in my house, fried rice is the main dish, a complete meal on its own.
And when you see what all goes into making it, I think you’ll agree. It truly is a complete meal. It has fiber (rice), meats (ham, chicken, bacon), vegetables (green onion, mushroom) and egg.
Don’t be afraid to go crazy with your veggies either, this is the perfect dish for doing so. I also like to use julienned carrot, sweet peas, bean sprouts, snow peas, whole kernel corn, broccoli, and celery. This is a good way to use veggies that might go bad.
I didn’t use garlic in this particular recipe (amazing if you’ve read any of my other recipes) and although I missed it, I think it held its own with just the ginger. The nice thing about fried rice is that you can make it a dozen different ways and never get tired of it.
I’m not sure, but I think the term chaufa originated in Peru. It means Asian style food. Paired with the Spanish word for rice — arroz — the dish gets its name.
This recipe is a lot simpler to make if you own a wok. Without it, you’ll probably use several pans.

4 cups cooked white rice
3 eggs, scrambled
1 cup chopped ham
1 cup chopped green onions
1/2 to 1 cup shredded chicken
1 1/2 cups mushrooms, chopped
4 tbs thinly sliced and chopped ginger
1 tsp salt
1 cup cooked and shredded chicken breasts
4 large slices fried and crumbled bacon
3 tbs soy sauce

Cook the bacon to you liking, then put on paper towels to drain.
Drain the grease into a small container but leave a little in the pan to cook the scrambled eggs. Remove the scrambled eggs into a separate bowl. Add a little olive oil or bacon grease to the pan and saute all vegetables. Don’t overcook.
Add the rice and mix everything well. Add soy sauce, scrambled eggs, and shredded chicken. Mix well.

Prepared on 2011-06-08 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Black Bean Veggie Burgers

I’ve been wanting to try veggie burgers for years now, but I thought if they weren’t going to taste as good as regular hamburgers, then why bother?
But I stand corrected. Even though they don’t taste like meat, these patties were so good that after I ate my burger and fries, I ate 3 patties all by themselves. Now I plan to use this same recipe to make meatballs for spaghetti sometime soon.  I can already taste the marinara sauce on the black bean meatballs.
I’ve seen them made with various different beans and lentils, but I chose to use black beans because I thought they might look closer to real beef.  After I looked at the pictures I was surprised at how much these patties look like my mom’s meat patties with vegetables.
Serve this burger along with some crispy potato wedges for a truly yummy meal.

Ingredients:  Makes 8 bean patties
2 15 oz cans black beans
1 1/2 cups Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup cilantro
1/2 cup parsley
1/2 large white onion
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili
2 tbs crushed garlic
1/2 tsp pepper
2 eggs
1/2 cup chopped yellow and red bell pepper
1 large jalapeño, seeded and roughly chopped

Drain and rinse the beans. Pour into a bowl and smash with a fork.
In a food processor place the cilantro, parsley, onion, seeded jalapeños, garlic, and bell peppers.
Pulse a few times until everything is well chopped.
Add the spices and half the mashed beans. Pulse a few more times. Don’t puree the mixture, just mix it well.
Empty the contents of the food processor back to the bowl with the beans and mix thoroughly with fork. Add the eggs and bread crumbs. Mix everything well with a fork and form patties.
Heat olive in a large pan on medium-low heat. Cook patties till they’re golden brown and crusty on the outside.

Prepared on 2011-08-20 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Friday, July 15, 2011

Chili Dogs On Toasted Buns

I’m not a huge fan of hot dogs, but every now and then I do get a craving for them. Especially since I still had some slow cooked chili leftover in the fridge.
These took very little time to make, and I served them with Hassleback baked potatoes.
I like to cut slits lengthwise on four sides of the hot dogs. That way, when they cook, they will open up along these cuts and crisp up even more. Although I used the oven to bake the hot dogs and toast the bread, the grill would work just as well.

4 hot dog buns
4 beef or turkey hot dogs
1 cup slow cooked chili
2 tbs chopped cilantro (optional)
2 tbs diced white onions
1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese


Cut a slit along the edge of the hot dogs; do this on 4 sides. If you’re using an oven, bake at 425 degrees for about 15 minutes. Once the the hot dogs start to brown and crisp up, they’e ready.
Toast your buns for about 2 minutes in the oven at 400 degrees F. (Toast these just before you’re ready to serve them, while the oven is still hot from baking the hot dogs.)
Spread your favorite condiments on the bread — mustard, ketchup and/or mayonnaise. Add your baked hot dog with the largest opening side facing up, and spoon chili on it. Add shredded cheese on top and return to the oven for about 3 more minutes, or until the cheese is melted.
Garnish with onions and cilantro, or fresh homemade salsa.

Prepared on 2011-05-15 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Southwestern Black Bean, Sweet Corn and Roasted Potato Salad with Mandarin, Lime and Garlic Dressing

I often like to experiment with vegetables that I happen to have on hand. I don’t always have a specific recipe in mind, although I usually know the direction I want to go in. This time I started with the potatoes and the dressing and went from there.
You’ll notice that I’m using more and more potatoes lately. Like I’ve told you before, I find it fun, easy and cheap to cook with them.
I added the corn, beans and bell pepper until I got the right look and texture I’d envisioned. The spiciness of the potatoes contrasted with the sweet kernel corn and mandarin-lime dressing worked very well in this case.
Inventing this dish gave me a chance to use basil, cilantro and oregano growing in my herb garden.
The potatoes were done almost exactly like the crispy potato wedges, but instead of russet potatoes I used new red potatoes. Although I used a mandarin here, you could also use a tangerine instead.

1 1/2 pounds new red potatoes
1 cup whole kernel corn (or use frozen whole kernel corn)
1 1/2 cups black beans (or 1 15 oz can of low-sodium black beans, fully drained)
1/4 cup bell peppers, cut into small slices
1/4 cup green onions, diced
1/2 large avocado, diced

Mandarin-Lime and Garlic Dressing:
1 tbs fresh basil
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tbs fresh cilantro (optional)
4 whole cloves garlic, mashed
1 tbs fresh oregano
3 mandarin slices (mashed and strained)
Juice of 1 lime

Spicy potato marinade:
2 tbs canola oil (or any vegetable oil)
1 tbs chili powder
1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp ground black pepper

In a small bowl, mix all the ingredients for the potato marinade and combine well with a fork. Make sure to whisk the marinade while adding each of the spices. to keep them from clumping up. Set aside to give the spices time to infuse into the oil.
In another mixing bowl, mix all the ingredients for the Mandarin-lime and garlic dressing. Do this at least 30 minutes before adding to the salad so that the spices and juices have time to blend.
Cut each potato into 4 parts (these are pretty small potatoes; if yours are larger cut even more) and place in a large ziploc bag. Pour the potato marinade into the ziploc bag and let out all the air, toss around with your hand until all the potatoes are covered in the marinade and set aside so that potatoes have time to absorb the marinade.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Spread foil on a large shallow baking pan and spray with non-stick spray.
Lay the potatoes on the pan in a single layer; spread them out evenly. Bake 20 minutes (or until crisp and tender) and turn halfway through. When done, set aside to cool.
In a large salad bowl, put the beans, corn, bell peppers, green onion and diced avocado. Once the potatoes are warm but not hot, add them to the bowl. Add salad dressing and toss.
Serve immediately.

Garnish with chopped basil.

Prepared on 2011-06-07 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sausage Potato Pancakes

We all grow up hearing mom say “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”, but I often skip it — and I know I’m not the only one who does.
Sometimes I’m just too lazy in the mornings, or I get bored with eating the same thing over and over.
That's all changing. I’m experimenting more and more now with breakfast, and recipes like this can add variety. This was the first time I’ve cooked these potato pancakes and they were incredible — crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. (In fact, they’re so crispy they actually crackle when you bite into them). Try combining different vegetables, like grated carrots, sweet potatoes, and/or spinach. See what you have in your fridge.
Next time I plan to leave out the sausage and see how they turn out.
Prep time was about 15 minutes and they cooked in another 10 minutes.

2 large russet potatoes, grated
1/2 large white onion, grated
2 tbs white flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup crumbled and cooked sausage
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 tsp crushed dried oregano
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs

Peel the potatoes, and grate on a cheese grater. Put the grated potato on top of some paper towels and press to release the liquid. Do the same with the large onion.
In a pan, fry the sausage, breaking it up into small pea-sized crumbles. Set aside on a paper towel to drain.
In a bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients, whisking to make a good mix.
Add the potatoes, onions and sausage. Mix well again.
Place a pancake-sized portion onto an oiled pan and cook about 5 minutes on each side at medium to medium-high heat.

Garnish with cilantro, oregano, or flat-leaf parsley. If you like, top your pancakes with a fried or poached egg.

Prepared on 2011-06-08 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Fettuccine Alfredo With Broiled Chicken Breasts

Fettuccine Alfredo is one of those comfort foods I always try when I go to a new Italian restaurant. I love the Alfredo sauce and I’m a big pasta fan.
When I make it at home I usually grill the chicken, but this time I broiled the chicken because I ran out of gas for the grill. The chicken actually turned out juicier.
I just discovered why Parmigiano Reggiano is so expensive — apparently it literally comes from Italy. You can buy a block of Parmesan cheese instead (just make sure to get the kind that is hard to the touch).
Although I love this recipe, I only make it a couple times a year, because it’s so rich with the heavy cream, butter and cheese that I’d feel guilty if I ate it more often than that. (Not to mention I’d never hear the end of it from mom, telling me how many calories it has in it.)
I love the garlic in the sauce, and it adds just the right kick, but don’t go overboard. It can quickly overpower the flavor.

Ingredients: (makes 3 to 4 servings)
17 oz package Fettuccine Pasta
1 pound boneless chicken breast

Chicken Marinade:
2 tbs olive oil
2 tbs white cooking wine
1 tsp liquid smoke
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs soy sauce
juice of one lime
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp salt

Alfredo Sauce:
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/4 cups grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Parmesan cheese
2 medium garlic cloves smashed
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/3 tsp black pepper

Start by combining all the ingredients for the marinade in a small bowl, and whisk vigorously until combined. (This has a tendency to separate otherwise.)
Dump the chicken into a ziplock bag then pour in the marinade. Seal and remove as much of the air as possible. Work it with your hands for a few minutes and then set it in the fridge for at least 1 hour before use.
Bake the chicken for 10 minutes at 350 degrees, then switch to broiling the chicken on both sides until it turns golden. While the chicken is baking, start the sauce.
Start by adding the butter to a saucepan on medium-low heat. Once the butter is completely melted, add the garlic. Whisk the garlic for about 30 seconds or so; you don't want to give the butter time to turn brown. Add the cream and whisk together with the butter. Once it’s heated all the way through, add the salt, white pepper and black pepper. While whisking rapidly, start adding 1 cup of the cheese, a pinch at a time, while working it into the sauce. If you add too much, it might clump up. Once the cheese has been fully incorporated into the sauce, stir for a minute or so, cover and remove from the heat.
When the chicken is done, remove and cut into chunks or strips to be used as a topping for the Fettuccine Alfredo.
Add the pasta to about 4 quarts of water and cook according to the instructions, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Once it’s cooked al dente, drain and immediately return to the pot, ladle some of the sauce into the pasta and stir until its well coated. (Keep a bit of the sauce for the presentation.)

Ladle a large portion on a plate or bowl. Lay several pieces of chicken on top. Sprinkle a bit of the sauce on top of the chicken, then sprinkle some more of the cheese on top.

Prepared on 2011-05-18 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Crispy, Spicy Baked Potato Wedges

I love to cook with potatoes and I plan to use them a lot in the coming months. They can be used in so many ways, and with the price of food going through the roof these days, a potato is one of the cheapest foods you can buy.
These potato wedges are simple to make and they can be a side dish to just about any food you can imagine. It takes a lot of self control on my part to keep from eating them before I put them on the table for everyone else.
I can even serve these to my vegetarian/vegan friends. I like to leave the skin on the potatoes; it adds a lot of texture to the wedges and since the potato skins have a lot of vitamins, they’re also healthier. Double the amount of cayenne pepper if you want these wedges really really spicy (my sister would probably want me to triple the amount).

Ingredients: ( 3 servings)
3 large russet potatoes (1 per person)

Spicy Marinade:
2 1/2 tbs canola oil (vegetable oil)
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp crushed cumin
1 1/2 tsp dried crushed oregano
1 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)

In a small mixing bowl, combine the oil and all the spices. Whisk constantly with a fork while adding each spice, to keep them from forming clumps in the marinade.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F while you scrub and rinse potatoes, until all the dirt is washed away (they will get several shades lighter when you’re done).
Cut the potatoes lengthwise in as many wedges as you want (if you cut them into 4 wedges try to do the same with all the potatoes; different sized wedges will not cook evenly).
Place the raw potato wedges into a large ziploc bag, then pour the marinade in. Seal, removing as much of the air as possible and work the marinade into all the potatoes with your hands. Keep the potatoes in the bag until just before cooking.
Place all the potato wedges onto a greased shallow baking pan.
Bake 25 to 35 minutes, turning once halfway through. You can test the potatoes with a sharp knife while in the oven to see if they are cooked all the way.

Prepared on 2011-06-05 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Quick and Easy Nachos

This is one of those super easy and tasty quick snacks, that will have you munching in less than 10 minutes. 
I learned to make these nachos from a friend many years ago when I lived in Stillwater, Oklahoma. This was her favorite midnight munchies snack. She sometimes used taco meat and refried beans. Although I like both, I’m usually in a hurry to eat, and prefer the quick version with just salsa and cheese — and when you use fresh, homemade salsa it’s even better.
If you keep a mix of shredded cheddar and Monterrey Jack cheese, and you’ve already made (or bought) your salsa, you’ll be taking your first bite in less than 10 minutes.

1/2 cup shredded mild cheddar cheese
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
1/4 cup homemade fresh salsa (store bought chunky salsa will also work)
tortilla chips

Lay a layer of tortilla chips on a microwave safe plate.
Spoon salsa on top of the chips (you don’t need much).
Sprinkle mixed cheese over the salsa.

Add more layers of chips, salsa and cheese.
Microwave on high until cheese is completely melted.
Eat right away before the chips get soggy.

In addition to taco meat and refried beans, shredded lettuce, jalapeno slices and guacamole are also great additions.
Prepared on 2011-05-19 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Creamy Ranch Cucumber Pasta Salad

While I was growing up in South America, I spent many summers at my grandparents’ house in South Carolina. They had a huge field of vegetables growing behind their house. (I don’t call it a vegetable garden, because to me, at that time, it seemed as large as a farm). The great thing was that we ate fresh, right-out-of-the-ground vegetables every day. Although I remember many of the dishes my grandma used to cook, this cucumber pasta salad was the only one I ever asked her to show me how to make. I truly regret that now. My grandparents passed away several years ago, but one of these days I’ll ask my aunt and my dad to share some of her other recipes with me. Its a refreshing, cold pasta salad for those hot summer days.

2 cups diced cucumbers (keep a few large pieces)
1/2 cup diced onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup celery, sliced
1/2 diced bell peppers (green, yellow, or red)
1/2 cup homemade mayonnaise
1/2 cup cucumber ranch dressing
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp dried dill
1/4 tsp white pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
2 tbs apple cider vinegar
juice of 1 lime
1 large clove garlic, smashed
6 oz large shell pasta
6 oz rotini pasta

In a large bowl, mix mayonnaise, ranch dressing, lime juice and the spices until everything is well combined, then set in the fridge while you chop vegetables. Add vegetables to the bowl, stir thoroughly and put back in the fridge.
In a large pot, bring salted water to a boil. When the water starts to boil, add pasta, cook for 10 to 12 minutes, or follow the directions in the pasta package, then strain under cold water until it has cooled completely. Set aside to drain, then add to the vegetables and dressing. Toss well.
Store in an airtight container for a few hours before serving.

Garnish with chopped cilantro and/or basil

Prepared on 2011-05-17 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Crockpot Lentil Soup

One Monday, while on vacation in Peru, I was served a plate of lentils and told “for your good luck this week.” I didn’t think anything of it. Over the next three Mondays I’d be served with lentils cooked in some form or other, and always told it was for my good luck. So one day I asked Mari, who works at my grandma’s house, why we ate lentils every Monday, and JUST on Mondays. She told me that if you eat lentils every Monday, then you are guaranteed to have enough money in your pockets, and enough food in your belly for the rest of the week. Soon after that, I discovered that everyone in my grandma’s house subscribes to that superstition. Since then I’ve done a little digging and found out that its not just in my grandma’s house, but in all of Peru. Although this recipe did not come from my grandma, it was inspired by all the different lentil dishes I had in Peru every Monday.
Since I pureed half the batch, it’s both a smooth and chunky soup.
Oh and by the way, I ate it on a Tuesday; I wonder if it will still bring me luck.

1 pound lentils
1 cup finely chopped white onion
1 cup finely chopped carrots
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
2/3 cup finely chopped bell peppers (green, yellow, or red)
2 tsp salt
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 quarts vegetable broth (use a bouillon if you don't have the broth)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed coriander seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
3 large cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbs butter (optional)
2 tbs olive oil

Add all the vegetable ingredients to the bottom of a large crockpot, then add the spices, butter and olive oil. On top of this, add the lentils and then the broth.
Cook on high until it starts to boil, then turn to the crockpot’s lowest setting and simmer for 3 or 4 hours until the lentils break apart when mashed against the side of the pot. Season with more salt and pepper to taste.
Let the lentil soup sit for an hour to cool down.
Puree half the mixture in a blender and return it back to the crockpot and stir one final time.

Ladle soup into a soup bowl. Squeeze a little fresh lime juice on top and garnish with grated parmesan cheese, cilantro, and diced green onions.

Prepared on 2011-05-17 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Fresh Salsa with roasted garlic and green chilies (Pico De Gallo)

When I lived in Colorado, I had a hiking and camping buddy who created gourmet meals for us to eat after a long day’s hike. He wanted us to start a tour guide business. We would take tourists on a tour of the San Juan Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountains in southwestern Colorado) and show them all the interesting sites. He wanted to set us apart from all the other tour guides in the area by providing the tourists with a custom shot video of their adventures and a gourmet meal.
He was a great cook and had some pretty awesome ideas for different meals to prepare. Among his creations were an excellent potato salad, various cold sandwiches, and garden-fresh salsa served with tortilla chips.
The tour guide business never really took off, but out of it came one of my favorite vegetables recipes — his garden-fresh salsa. I love to eat it with tortilla chips, on top of toasted garlic bread and in quick nachos. It’s also great on turkey sandwiches; I like to spread it between turkey slices. This salsa should keep for about 4 to 5 days (although its so delicious I really doubt you’ll have to worry about it lasting that long). In Mexico this salsa is also known as “Pico De Gallo”. Feel free to experiment with any vegetables you like. Use this recipe as a base and add diced bell peppers, cucumbers, celery, or any others you like. Add finely diced jalapeno and/or habanero peppers to make it spicy. Please leave me a comment on what variations you've tried.

3 cups diced white onion
4 cups diced tomatoes
4 tbs roasted garlic, mashed
1 large jalapeno, seeded, deveined and finely diced (optional)
1 cup chopped cilantro
juice of 2 lemons
1 4 oz can of chopped green chilies
2 tbs balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
salt to taste

Add onions, tomatoes, jalapeno, cilantro and green chilies to a large bowl.
In a separate small bowl, mash the roasted garlic with a fork, then add the lime juice, vinegar, salt and pepper. Whisk this dressing while slowly pouring in the olive oil. Dump the dressing onto the bowl of vegetables and mix until everything is well combined.
Pour the salsa mixture into an airtight container and set in the refrigerator overnight. Every now and then, stir it a bit since the juices tend to settle in the bottom of the container.

Prepared on 2011-05-14 (Tulsa, OK), Photographs by Michael Findley

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Chunky Hummus with Roasted Garlic

Instead of the same old mayonnaise on a turkey sandwich, I love to spread hummus on the bread instead.
l also use it as a dip with crackers, chips and vegetables. This time I used baked pita triangles. Hummus should keep for about a week in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This recipe calls for 1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper, but feel free to add more if you like your hummus really spicy.
I also made this batch of hummus chunkier than usual, and I think it worked out great, but I’m still not sure if I prefer it this way or creamy smooth.

Ingredients: (makes about two cups)
2 cups garbanzo beans, soaked overnight or 1 15 oz can
1/4 cup Tahini (sesame paste)
3 tbs roasted garlic cloves or 1 mashed clove
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of 1 lime
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
pita bread (cut into triangles, see below for instructions)

Cook garbanzo beans in about 5 cups of water for about 45 minutes, or until tender.
Add to a food processor, along with tahini, lime juice, garlic, olive oil, cumin, cayenne pepper, black pepper and salt.
Process in a food processor until it’s smooth. If it becomes too thick add 1 tbs of water at a time until it gets smooth again. (The picture above is chunkier than normal.)
Pita triangles:
Cut pita bread into 8 triangles, open triangles up and cut the two halves — you should now have 16 triangles.
Rub roasted garlic over each triangle, then brush on a bit of olive oil.
Sprinkle pepper and salt on each triangle and toast in a 375 degree oven for 5 to 10 minutes until golden brown and crisp.

Empty the food processor into a small serving bowl. Sprinkle a bit of extra virgin olive oil on top. If you like, garnish with paprika and/or cumin and add parsley to the center of the dish.

Prepared on 2011-05-14 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Crispy Hasselback Potatoes with Garlic

While surfing for good recipes online, I came across this recipe for Hasselback Potatoes. They looked not only different and interesting, but crispy too. And when I read the recipe, it mentioned that sliced garlic was stuffed in each of the potato slits. This did it for me, and I had to try these. I’m glad I did, they turned out very good and were in fact crispy, but not as crispy as a potato chip.
I will definitely make these again, but I have some ideas for how I might change them a bit — stay tuned.

4 or 5 large cloves of garlic (depends on how many potato slits you end up with)
2 large russet potatoes
olive oil
around 1/4 stick of butter
salt and pepper

Slice your potatoes crossways from one end to the other, but make sure you don’t cut all the way through, so the slices are held together at the bottom. Make your slices about ⅛ inch thick.
Slice the cloves of garlic as thin as you can, and put a slice between each of the potato slits.
Place potatoes into an oven baking dish.
Drizzle some olive oil over the potatoes, making sure oil works its way in between each of the potato slices.
Sprinkle some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt over the potatoes.
Cut eight ⅛-inch-thick slices of butter, and spread four on top of each potato.
Cover the baking dish with foil, and place in a 425 degree F oven.
Bake for about 30 minutes, covered. Remove the foil, and brush some of the oil and butter in the bottom of the dish back on the potatoes. Bake another 30 minutes. (If you don’t have much butter and oil dripping in the bottom of the baking dish, add 2 or 3 more butter slices on top of each potato.)

Prepared on 2011-05-15 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Homemade Spicy Mayonnaise with Garlic

My mom has been making homemade mayonnaise since I was a kid. I’ve tried many store-bought brands and none of them ever came close.
I don’t know if making mayonnaise at home is any cheaper than buying it at the store, but it takes so little time to make that you should try it.
This particular mayonnaise is a little bit on the spicy side, which is why I love it so much. Homemade mayonnaise can be stored in the fridge for about a week, but you must be sure to store it in an airtight container. I use this mayonnaise on sandwiches, potato salad,  and several pasta salads. Its also excellent in a Peruvian potato dish, causa rellena, which I'll share with you soon.

Ingredients: (makes about 1 1/2 cups)
2 eggs
1 medium clove of garlic, mashed or 2 tbs roasted garlic
1/2 medium habanero, seeded, deveined and chopped
1 tsp yellow mustard
juice of one large lime
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
about 1 cup canola oil

Put all ingredients, except oil, into a blender.
Pulse the blender until everything is well combined. Turn the blender speed to its medium setting, and slowly add oil until the mayo reaches a thick consistency.

Prepared on 2011-05-17 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Aji De Pollo (Creamy Shredded Chicken with Turmeric)

My mom calls this dish “Picante de Pollo.” Everyone else I know — including my grandma — calls it “Aji de Pollo.” I guess it doesn’t really matter since “picante” means “hot” and “aji” means “hot pepper.”
This is a classic Peruvian dish and one you’ll find in many restaurants in Lima. For me, it’s the turmeric that makes the dish so special. The habanero gives it a slight kick, although in Peru you’d use aji amarillo instead.
Many people like to eat it as a dip for crackers and/or toasted French bread, but I prefer to serve it with rice.

Ingredients: (Serves 4 people)
6 cups cooked rice (1 1/2 cups per serving)
1 pound chicken breasts
3 hamburger or hot dog buns
1 1/2 cups milk (Any milk will do, I used skim)
1 large white onion diced
3 large cloves garlic smashed
1 chicken bouillon cube (if the broth is too weak)
1/4 habanero or 1/2 aji amarillo finely diced
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbs grated Parmesan cheese
olive or canola oil

Start by breaking the buns into small chunks. Soak the chunks in a bowl with the milk.
To make a broth, boil the chicken in about 3 cups of water for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken and set apart on a plate. Into a small container, pour the broth. Break the breasts apart with a fork or your fingers until you have small strips of shredded chicken, no more than an inch long.
In the same pot you cooked the chicken, saute onions along with garlic in a drizzle of oil; add the chicken bouillon, pepper, habanero or aji amarillo, and turmeric.
When the onions and garlic are sauteed and translucent, add about 1/4 cup of the broth. Add the shredded chicken and mix well. Cook 2 or 3 minutes.
Mash the bread and then add it to the pot; cook for about 5 minutes. If the cream gets too thick add more of the broth.
Add the Parmesan cheese and mix well. Turn off the heat and remove from the stove.

When serving with rice, I like to add a side of green beans or spinach fritters, but any kind of vegetable side will work.

Prepared on 2011-04-10 (Tulsa, OK), Photograph by Michael Findley

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Torrejas de Espinaca (Spinach Fritters)

Torrejas are a very Peruvian dish.
You can throw in just about any vegetable you have in your fridge, as long as you include a larger proportion of spinach. In fact, spinach here is not really optional; it helps hold the torreja together while frying, and later while eating. In this particular recipe I used lettuce, parsley, onions and tomatoes because that’s what I had in the refrigerator at the time.
I love to just eat these with my hands; they’re so crunchy and full of flavor. They can also be used as sides to most of the dishes in this blog.

1 cup spinach
1/2 cup onion
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
1/2 medium habanero, seeded, deveined and diced
1 cup lettuce, only the greener parts of leaves
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1/2 cup finely diced tomatoes
1/3 cup parsley, chopped (no stems)

Steam the spinach for about 5 minutes.
Finely chop all the vegetables, including the steamed spinach, and place in a bowl.
In a separate bowl mix the water, flour and eggs; use a fork to blend well.
Add the flour-egg-water mixture to the chopped vegetables and mix well.
Use a large serving spoon to scoop a dollop of the mix onto a hot frying pan that was sprayed with nonstick oil. Fry, pancake-style. When the bottom has golden-brown spots, turn and fry on the other side.

Prepared on 2011-04-06 (Tulsa, OK), Pictures by Michael Findley

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Crispy Flavorful Falafels

The falafels pictured above are the first ones I’ve made on my own. Many years ago I watched my late friend Bob make them. Actually, he taught me many cooking basics, and he was also quite a character, so someday I’ll tell you more about him.
Even though I used many spices, these falafels were not all that spicy, just full of wonderful flavor. Mom liked them so much, that she asked me to make them as often as possible.
Half were fried and the other half baked (the greener ones you see above were baked and they tasted great, but were not as crispy as the fried ones). I found that frying them was difficult. At first my oil was too hot and the outside would crisp too quickly, leaving the center raw. Perhaps in the future I’ll bake them for a bit first, then finish them by frying.
There are so many ways you can use falafels. Put them in salads, falafel-humus sandwiches or just eat them as snacks.
This is my first vegetarian recipe on the blog, and if you’re vegan you can skip the breadcrumbs (or use vegan-friendly bread).

4 cups raw (soaked overnight) garbanzo beans
6 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup parsley, chopped
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 medium onions, roughly chopped
1 medium jalapeño, seeded and chopped
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 tsp dill
2 tbs flour
1 tbs bread crumbs
3/4 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp crushed coriander seed
canola oil
salt and pepper

In a food processor, chop the garbanzo beans until you get a crumbled mixture with pieces about the size of sesame seeds.
Move this mixture to a bowl. In the food processor place the parsley, cilantro, jalapeño pepper, onions, garlic and 1 cup of the crumbled garbanzo beans. Chop until well combined.
Spoon the blended mixture into the bowl with crumbled garbanzo beans along with the flour, cumin, crushed coriander seeds, baking soda, and about 1 tbs of salt. If you chose to use cayenne pepper add it at this time too. Finally add some black pepper to taste.
Combine everything thoroughly with a spoon. Squeeze a small amount of the mixture in your hand. If it falls apart, add a few drops of water.
Form the mixture into 25 to 30 balls. If you’ll be baking, place them on a baking tray covered with olive oil.
To fry: In a deep frying pan, on medium heat, add enough oil to cover the falafels.
When the oil is hot, fry them 3 to 5 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels.
To bake: preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place the falafels on the center rack of your oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown, turning the falafels over halfway through.

Prepared on 2011-04-13 (Tulsa, OK), photograph by Michael Findley

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Egg Salad Sandwich

This is a really simple sandwich to make, perfect for those days when you don’t feel like cooking a whole meal. On the day I prepared this sandwich I’d been working for several hours in the backyard and was tired, hot and hungry. Less than 15 minutes after walking into the house, I was eating the sandwich. It helps that I like to keep at least 2 hard-boiled eggs in the fridge at all times.

Ingredients: (Makes 2 sandwiches)
2 hard-boiled eggs
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4 tsp dried dill
2 tbs mayonnaise
1 tsp mustard
1 tbs finely chopped onion
4 slices of your favorite bread

Remove both hard-boiled eggs from their shells and put into a medium-sized bowl. Cut into quarters and mash with a fork. Add all the remaining ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Let it rest about 10 minutes, so the flavors have time to blend.

Serve with your favorite sliced bread.

Recipe cooked on 2011-03-25 (Tulsa, OK), photographs by Michael Findley

Monday, April 18, 2011

Chifles (plantain chips)

Chifles are snacks I grew up eating. Whenever someone in my family would visit my grandmother in Peru, they’d always come back with 2 or 3 bags of chifles in their suitcases. Chifles are slices of plantain which are set on paper towels to dry, and then fried. As soon as they come out of the pot they’re lightly dusted with salt and laid on paper towels again to drain.
A plantain has a similar shape to a banana, but its skin only turns yellow for a short period, just before ripening. A fully ripe plantain has a black skin. It’s starchier and firmer than a banana, and not as sweet.
We usually eat chifles by themselves like you’d eat potato chips, but it’s also customary to serve them with certain Peruvian dishes like ceviche and soups. In Peru, plantains are available year-round, so you can always find them in my grandma's kitchen.
I’ve never made these myself here in the U.S. — not because I can't find the ingredients, but because (thanks to whoever goes to visit my grandma in Peru) we always have some laying around our house.

3 or 4 plantains
vegetable oil

Cut the plantains into 1/16- to 1/8-inch-thick slices. If you want to speed up this process, you can use a mandolin. Lay a single layer of slices on paper towels to dry for about 30 minutes.
Add 1/2 inch of oil to a pot (deep enough to prevent splatter) and heat to medium high. Toss in a handful of the plantain slices and turn them until they become a gold color. Remove the fried plantain chips into a bowl, sprinkle a pinch of salt and toss to evenly spread. Empty the chips onto paper towels to drain. Repeat this process until all the plantain slices have been fried, salted and drained. The plantain chips will absorb some of the oil, so add more as needed.

Store the plantains in air-free containers or plastic bags.

Photograph by Michael Findley

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Big Ol’ Breakfast Burritos

About 15 years ago, when I lived in Stillwater, Okla., I went to a restaurant called ‘Atomic Burrito’ (unfortunately it went out of business in 2000). That was the first time I’d ever had a burrito with rice in it. Since then I’ve made many burrito variations with rice.
This particular burrito I made one morning when I was especially hungry, which is probably why it was so large (the photo above is actually one burrito cut in half). You’d have to be a glutton if you ate more than those two halves. I ate twice that much!

Ingredients: (This recipe makes 4 burritos, about 1 1/2 cups of the mixture for each)
1/2 cup finely diced onions
1/4 cup finely diced celery
1/2 cup diced mushrooms
3 large eggs
3 large slices turkey bacon, thinly sliced
2 turkey sausage links, cut into small pieces
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 medium jalapeno, diced (optional)
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
2 cups cooked rice
3 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp mild taco seasoning
2 tbs butter

Mix the eggs in a bowl with 1 tsp of garlic, 1 tsp of taco seasoning, about half the diced onions, and diced celery. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a pan on medium heat and spray some nonstick oil into it. Add all the vegetables and the meats, along with 1 tsp of taco seasoning, 1 tsp of garlic and the cayenne pepper. Saute about 4 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a bowl. Spray more nonstick oil into the pan and pour the eggs. Stir it often to make the scrambled eggs. Just before the eggs are fully cooked, pour the vegetable and meat mixture back into the pan and stir. Add the rice, butter and 1 tsp of soy sauce. Stir until the rice has heated through.
Heat your tortillas to help loosen them up for folding.
Place a large heaping mound on the tortilla (about a cup and a half).

Fold the burrito quickly before the tortilla cools down.

Recipe prepared on 2011-04-09 (Tulsa, OK). Photographs by Michael Findley.

Perfect Rice Every Time

Nothing has frustrated me more over the years than making rice. As a Peruvian, I’m used to having rice served with many of the dishes I eat.
When I started cooking rice for myself, I didn’t have instant success. I watched my mother make it with several, slightly different methods, and the rice came out perfect every time, (like it was pure magic). That only added to my frustration.
Well I’m happy to tell you all that I’ve finally figured it out — well almost.
  • Use a heavy pot (the heaviest pot you’ve got that also has a lid). 
  • Use oil (not only does it keep the rice from sticking to the pot, but it also allows you to use less water). 
That’s it really, but I should warn you, it may take a couple of tries until you get it right, because it really all depends on the pot you use. You can also modify the amount of water and oil. Once it comes out the way you like it, stick to the same ingredient quantities and pot forever.
For more flavor, you can boil the rice in chicken, beef or vegetable broth, instead of water.

2 cups white long-grain rice
3 1/2 cups water
1 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried parsley flakes (crush in the palm of your hand)

In a heavy pot add rice, olive oil, garlic powder, dried parsley and salt. Stir until every grain of rice gets coated with oil. Add the water to the pot, then turn the stove to its highest setting.
Once the water begins to boil, scrape the bottom of the pot to loosen any rice that may have gotten stuck. Lower the heat to the lowest setting and cover the pot.
Simmer 20 minutes.
Remove from the burner and fluff with a long metal fork. Cover and let it sit for 5 more minutes.

Photograph by Michael Findley.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Tallarines Verdes (Spinach Pesto)

At my grandparents’ house in Lima, Peru, I had a green pesto-like dish called Tallarines Verdes. It’s essentially a green pasta dish with a green cream that tastes like pesto — but not exactly. Now, pesto is something I love to eat but it’s expensive to make and the ingredients are difficult to find. For example, fresh basil leaves are rare in American grocery stores. Then there are pine nuts, which are not really all that expensive, but are so rarely used that they sit in your pantry forever before you use them again (if you remember you have them in the first place).
My grandma told me she was making this dish, which I remember from my childhood in Peru, but for some reason I never made the connection to basil pesto until I saw it had a few (less than a quarter of a cup) basil leaves. I used to make pesto every week during the summer a few years ago when I grew basil in my back yard.
This is not a dish that is commonly served on its own. My grandma served it alongside breaded beef steak, with cut green beans and a potato.
I present to you 'Tallarines Verdes' — which loosely translated to English means 'Green Pasta' — although we can call it Spinach Pesto.

1 pound of sirloin or loin steak
1 cup of bread crumbs
1 pound fettuccine, or any string pasta
2 cups cooked spinach (about 5 cups fresh spinach, before its cooked) and 1 cup of the water it was cooked in
1/2 cup queso fresco (a white cheese commonly found in large American grocery stores)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 large potatoes with the skin left on
1 or 2 hard-boiled eggs
1 cup raw green beans cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces.
salt, pepper

First, prepare the spinach pesto, since it’s the easiest to make. Basically, the only cooked ingredient is spinach; everything else is fresh.

You can add all the ingredients into a blender at once, although I usually start with the dry ingredients like basil, garlic and cheese, and pulse these a few times with the vegetable oil and about half the cup of spinach water. Add the spinach, a little at a time to keep it from clogging the blender, and add the rest of the water as needed (shoot for a more liquid consistency than the basil pesto you’re probably used to). Once this is done, set the blender aside while you prepare the rest of the meal.
With whatever method you use to steam vegetables, put the potatoes in first, since they take about 40 minutes to steam, and add the green beans about 30 minutes later.
While heating a thin layer of oil in a frying pan, pound the beef steaks to 1/4-inch thickness. Rub salt and pepper into the meat with your fingers and dip the meat into the breadcrumbs. Brown both sides of the meat. Since it’s thin, it shouldn’t take long (about 3 minutes on each side).
Cook the pasta with your own method, about 8 minutes does it for me. Drain and put it back in the pot. Add 3/4 of the pesto from the blender to the pot and mix it well.

Start by placing the green pasta on the plate, then layer some green beans on top. You can serve the potato slices on the side, leaning them up against the pasta, then pour some of the pesto on top of the potatoes and green beans. Add the meat. Garnish the whole plate with Parmesan cheese and a hard-boiled egg wedge.

More pictures in order of preparation:

Recipe prepared on 2011-02-11 (Lima, Peru). Photograph by Michael Findley.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Sausage Meatballs

This recipe was actually simpler to make than I had envisioned. Despite the fact that I slightly overcooked them, these were the best-tasting sausage meatballs I’d ever had, even my sister thought so. Every bite brought a taste of both cheese and onions.
You could use these meatballs as side dishes, incorporate them into spaghetti, or do what I did -- stick toothpicks in and eat them like snacks.

1 pound of mild Italian sausage
1/4 cup Italian bread crumbs
1/2 cup onion (finely diced)
3/4 cup plain pancake mix
1 tsp ground red pepper
1 tsp powdered garlic
1 cup grated mild cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
If your sausage came in links, remove the casing. Put the meat into a large bowl. Add remaining ingredients and work it with your hands. Once all the dry ingredients are fully incorporated into the meat, start forming the balls. I recommend a diameter slightly smaller than a quarter but bigger than a nickel. Roll them tightly so they don’t fall apart when they’re cooking. Spray nonstick oil into a large frying pan and set it on medium-high heat. Barely sear the outside of the meatballs, then turn the pan over onto a large baking tray and spread the meatballs out so they don’t touch. Bake about 10 - 15 minutes, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.
These can be frozen in a Ziploc bag.

Recipe prepared on 2011-03-25 (Tulsa, OK). Photograph by Michael Findley.